Employer not insured, workers covered

MINDEN -- All medical costs incurred by five men injured in a plant explosion last week will be paid by the state, even though the business they were working for was not insured.

"These injured workers are covered," said Charles Verre, chief administrative officer of the Industrial Insurance Regulation Section for Nevada.

Depressurized Technologies International Inc. did not have workers compensation insurance when numerous explosions ripped through the Minden plant the evening of Sept. 17, according to Verre.

All five men were working at the plant depressurizing aerosol cans for recycling when an unknown spark ignited the butane or propane used to fuel the cans.

One of the victims, Jaime Gonzales, 34, died of his injuries Tuesday afternoon.

Investigations by the East Fork Fire District and Occupational Safety and Health Administration are trying to pinpoint the ignition source.

"We are still in the process of investigating it and cannot tell you when it will be completed. We are still in the middle of it,' said Tom Czehowski, chief administrative officer for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration Enforcement Section.

Raul Gonzales, 25, Elias San Juan, 21, and Cecilio San Juan, 21, are all recovering at UC Davis in Sacramento where they are listed in critical condition. Susano Lopez remains at University Medical Center in Las Vegas, he too is listed in critical condition.

Verre said regardless of the terms of employment -- whether the men were working on the books or under the table, and whether they are legal or illegal aliens -- makes no difference to the workers compensation claim.

"The bottom line is the injured worker will be indemnified," he said. "There is an 'uninsured fund' into which all insurers pay specifically for cases like this."

The victims will not be liable for any out-of-pocket expenses for their care.

In addition, Verre said funeral costs will be covered up to $5,000 for Gonzales.

Representatives from Industrial Insurance Regulation have been in contact with the victims and their families. "We are well aware of their medical status. It's very sad what happened here," Verre said.

DTI owner Walter Gonzales was unavailable for comment.

According to Nevada law, any employer who fails to provide insurance could be charged with a felony if an employee suffers serious injury or death. If convicted the employer faces 1 to 5 years in prison and a fine of not less than $1,000 or more than $50,000. The employer is also liable for any expenses paid by the state.


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